Be Proactive, Protect your Devices

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This lesson is far too important to slow walk you to understanding: stop what you’re doing and activate the baked-in device tracking tools available to you and download some extra security measures while you’re at it. Sometimes in our never ending tech excitement and device worship we forgo the simplest steps to ensure data and gadget security. So if your smartphone, tablet, or laptop are repositories for your sensitive information consider how devastating losing those tools could be to you or your family.

At this point many will say ‘oh nothing will happen to me, I always keep my phone/tablet/laptop safely stored and only the most brazen thief would walk off with it.’ Well guess what that can happen to you, as I am a living example. Last month a burglar broke into my home -while I was in the house, sleeping no less- and made off in the middle of the night with nearly all of my devices. Luckily all the devices required passcodes to access their contents, but if I had only taken a few extra security steps they would likely be back in my possession and the thief behind bars.

First and easiest security measure; physically lock your devices away. Unless you have a dozen gadgets lying around your home or office, most devices can be stored in a desk drawer and locked away from would-be assailants. As brazen as some criminals may be, making noise and spending extended periods of time at a crime scene searching for hidden devices is how someone winds up in jail. That little locked drawer may be the one thing keeps your device from ending up stolen, memory wiped, and sold on the street.

So let’s say you lock away your gadgets and still they end up pilfered, well if the thief is foolish enough to attempt using your device there are a few simple software tools that may help you locate and identify your robber. All current operating systems come with a “find my phone” geo-locating function. For smartphones they are nearly required to be set up when your device is activated and synced with an email account. For tablets and laptops activation of geo-locating features requires the user to be proactive and connect the device to a free operating system account.

Take the extra step and connect your device to your Apple iCloud, Google or Microsoft account. These free services allow users to track phones and tablets with cellular service and active GPS signals in real-time and any device connected to WiFi will be located and mapped.

Now that you’ve secured a place to lock away your idle gadgets, and connected your latent locating software, it’s time to do the easy part: setting a strong passcode and fingerprint if available. You likely already have a passcode in place, but if you use the common four, same number passcode than your device is not secure. Repeated punching of “9999” or something similar can easily be cracked. How? Well your fingers are oily and smudge your screen. You don’t have to be too clever to hold a device at the property angle and see where the heaviest smudge marks are. By enacting a six digit, mixed number passcode the chances of a thief cracking your device are much lower. Integrating a two-factor combo of passcode and fingerprint to access the device is the barrier for thieves.

Now if you really want to get secure applications like Kaspersky, Norton, CM Security, LockWatch, and many others provide free security tools that allow users to remote lock or wipe their phone, snap photos or failed login users and send them to device owners, and hide and lock sensitive data and applications.

Is all of this overkill? Well consider what personal data you might have on your phone. Financial information? Password list? Irreplaceable photos and videos? Risqué materials? If you float of any of that on an unsecure device I suggest you take any and all of this advice as soon as possible.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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